Thoughts on... International Women's Day
If I'm honest with you, I haven’t paid much attention to International Women’s Day in the past. As a woman, to put it simply, I felt I understood the worth and struggle of my sex, and this understanding was an integral part of my existence consciously and unconsciously.
Of course our existence is complex and our struggles have and do take various trajectories that sometimes cross and are sometimes linked to other causes, each with their own layers, so that the learning of what being a woman means in this world is a journey that can last a lifetime. So, does a day dedicated to women make a difference?
Many people believe Valentine’s day is a commercial opportunity rather than a chance to dote on your love one and show how much you appreciate them. The argument usually is: shouldn’t you display this sort of behaviour everyday?
Similarly, the plight of women to break the mould of the ‘inferior sex’ nearly in all social situations, should filter into everyday life in the household, and particularly in every single workplace. Women and their rights should be considered everyday by both sexes... but I am sure nearly all people in support of women would agree.
Of course, the ideal situation would be for women to be unconsciously considered. We would have bosses who would pay us as much as our male counterparts if we are as skilled and experienced for a role. And pay us more, if we are better. We would not fear that reporting sexual harassment and assault would lead to being silenced, a lack of justice and no recourse for our harassers or attackers. In fact, we would not be subject to men taking advantage of us at home, at work and in war as a means of asserting some form of perverse type of power. We would simply have the same rights as men, including the right to an education.
Eventually, I hope It will not be a matter of taking deliberate action, but it will be the norm in a world that has advanced in so many other ways already. The recent international movements #metoo - the phrase originally coined in 2006 by Tarana Burke, a now prominent social activist to denote empowerment through empathy between women of colour sexually abused, particularly in underprivileged areas - and #timesup seem to be a huge development in the battle of making this a reality. The fact that the former has been adopted in Hollywood and the latter created by the its celebrities, thanks to famous faces like Alyssa Milano, and Rose McGowan speaking out against film mogul Harvey Weinstein, has given one of women’s causes the attention it needs. Teamed with the fact the movements have gained traction through social media, they have propelled women’s rights into focus and given this 2018 International Women’s Day a new relevance.
But what is a day, when the rest of the year the volume is turned down again on such important issues? This is through no fault of women. Of course battles are still being fought worldwide and they are being highlighted more and more but the recent online movements, with the force of Hollywood at the helm and behind them have created a new-age feminism. We can see the western world as going through three waves of feminism in the 19th to 20th century, in the 60s and 70s and again in the 90s. The irony is IWD for me has only grown in importance because the conversation surrounding women’s rights in light of recent events has been given the attention it deserves in a way I haven’t seen it dwelled on before.The lens has been turned inward.
Where before the vocal point appeared to be on women in far off lands, who certainly deserve to be acknowledged, now there is equally as much of a focus on victims of the Western world. It is clear to see that we have much more going on at home, under our noses, than at least I ever thought imaginable. Some of which has been swept out from under the carpet and now identified as sexism or misogynistic, or a form of sexual inequality. These recent events, for me, mark a fourth wave, reinforcing and simultaneously causing me to re-evaluate what it means to be a woman at this present time in my current environment. The agenda has been reset.
French feminist Simone de Beauvoir agreed with writer Jean-Paul Sartre that one is not born woman, one becomes woman. We do not come into this world within the state of woman, we are conditioned to exist as so, and our model is set against the male prototype. This needs to be one of the first changes. How a woman exists should not be dictated, especially not by men. Just like how a man exists should not be dictated by women. Women can be weak and vulnerable but so can men. Our states are forever changing, and there are so many types of women out there, as there are a broad spectrum of men.
This International Women’s Day highlights the heightened sense of urgency for change, and the increased efforts of activists in certain areas. While not necessary, it now does not appear to be functionless for me. After all, if a partner puts the effort into a relationship 364 days of the year it only makes Valentine's day a different, collective way of showing appreciation for their other half. What's wrong with that? It's only if the rest of the year, their behaviour bears no or lee=ss of a resemblance to how they are on Valentine's day, that the day perhaps seems worthless to their other half, and holds no real meaning.
Recent months and IWD have brought a much needed spotlight to Hollywood, major businesses, organisations and other institutions, showing us how deep-rooted inequality still is and how far we still have to go. The familiar celebration of the achievements of the Suffragettes and Suffragists is not enough to keep us tempered. Right now, it’s as much a day about men and how they can be allies. How we as humans, both sexes, can stop conditioning women, objectifying women and accept women being without distorting our existence, and even more so how we can support each other by being inclusive of all women when fighting for our rights.
Hopefully, the climate will change for not only women but other marginalised groups as well.